Eric E. Moore on Linux and Free Software, the Swiss Army Knife of Computing Clusters
Computing clusters. Harnessing the power of multiple computers to do lots of work. Tuesday, 15 May 2007, Dr. Eric Moore will presented on the usability, reliability, computational might of connecting various hardware to form a single computational entity. A cluster of computers.
You might wonder, doesn't, didn't virtualization render clustering obsolete? expensive, unreliable by comparison? ``Making one PC look like many is not the same as making many look like one. Virtualization is for when your iron has more horsepower than needed to do one thing, so you want it doing many things. Clustering (at least the sort Eric will discuss) is for when too much horsepower is not enough (and in his world, too many flops is never enough, such is life in a field where O(N^4) algorithms are considered fast, and run times are often measured in weeks),''says Eric.
Does Linux lead in clustering? Doesn't *BSD rockit harder? ``Yes, no.''
Should you get Slackware, or Ubuntu, or that little book that tells me how to roll your own Linux?
``Depends on what you're trying to do.'' Eric will share his experience and astutely guide your options.
Clustering is basically the art of harnessing together many computers to do computations that can't be done by one (or in many cases, to conveniently do a bunch of computations that can be done on one all at the same time). (There are also high-availability clusters, which will be discussed only peripherally). Clusters are found in all sorts of places, from Google, which uses them to build its search indexes, to the giant render farms that give us animated movies, to the Beowulf clusters of scientific research (and their Ghettowulf cousins which Eric has mostly built). If it takes more than a couple hours for your program to run, you may want a cluster for that.
The talk will cover a number of questions regarding:
* Can you use a cluster for your problem?
* Should you?
* What sort of cluster?
* What tools are there for your kind of problem?
* What are the trade-offs you need to look at, and what works in what situations?
* What are your options?
* Who uses these things, and what for?
Clustering is a very big field, covers a lot of ground, and there's a lot of really good stuff for doing it under Linux, come hear about a whole bunch of these things.
If you need a cluster, think you need a cluster (or think you don't need one and want to make sure), or just have a bunch of PC's you want to turn into a cluster just because, you just might learn something.
It never hurts to come to a talk about an area where Linux and Free Software are the undisputed masters of the field.
Eric is a computational chemist, who has had to set up and maintain several clusters in his career, and has learned most of the ways not to do it, and some things to do. Now he teaches for a living, but would rather be crunching numbers. Giving a talk about crunching numbers is almost as good.